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The Nicaraguan Christian youth group "Capital on the Edge" breakdance Thursday in Worthington. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)

From Nicaragua to Worthington, by way of breakdancing

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news Worthington, 56187
Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

WORTHINGTON -- When Jose, a Capital on the Edge member, described his childhood Thursday, his response could be best translated as 'I was a bad boy.'

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Jose, 20, grew up on the streets of Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, located in the heart of Central America. His mother worked long hours, and he didn't know his father. He wasn't very old when he learned to steal and began smoking marijuana.

With the help of Jed and Elizabeth Brien, Capital on the Edge leaders, Jose's life looks completely different today.

The Briens, along with Jose and a group of seven other 17- to 22-year-old men from Nicaragua, visited Worthington on Thursday to share their breakdancing skills through street ministry. The group was hosted by Solid Rock Assembly, and performed at Sungold Heights Thursday afternoon and Solid Rock later that evening.

Capital on the Edge began its Sungold Heights performance with loud music to let residents know they were there. After performing a dance in the grass, two Capital on the Edge members gave brief testimonies and shared their history. The group then opened up the dance space and invited the audience to join them in a second performance.

The Briens, natives of Australia, coordinate the group and are missionaries with Capital Edge Community Church in Canberra, Australia. They live in Nicaragua with their four children and a foster child they hope to adopt.

The couple met at Hillsong Church, a globally-known church based in Sydney. After completing their education, they moved to Guadalajara, Mexico, to teach. Three years ago, the Brien family moved to Nicaragua -- again to teach.

But we found that we were teaching all the rich kids, the embassy kids, and we wanted to be working with the poor that lived in our bario (neighborhood),Jed Brien said.

The first night the couple hosted a youth group in their community, they had more than 500 children from the neighborhood attend.

Since then, the Briens have opened a school in Cedro Galan, a neighborhood about half an hour from the center of Managua.

We kept seeing all these kids on the street getting up to no good, sniffing glue, doing marijuana, just getting into a lot of trouble, Elizabeth Brien said of their motivation to start the school. There are a lot of problems sexually, too, and there is a lot abuse that happens.

While they also provide meals for many of the children, that's not the answer,Jed said.

He and Elizabeth felt called to do more than just educate in the classroom, and have also opened their home to many of the young men they work with.

We realized really quickly that change would only come if we had them come live with us, Jed said. We really want them to have stronger moral values -- to teach them the correct way to live their life. We teach them to live for Jesus -- that He is the one who has saved them, it's not us, and that they should live the same example that he did, loving everyone with the right sort of love and being kind and generous.

The young men living with the Briens also began learning how to breakdance, an energetic and acrobatic style of street dancing.

To raise awareness about the conditions in Nicaragua and share the accomplishments of the young men, the group made their first trip to the United States in March.

They felt they were very insignificant, so coming to the States has boosted them, Elizabeth said. To see people encouraged by what they do and encouraging them, that's amazing to them.

Because of visa requirements and responsibilities in Nicaragua, the group has multiple trips to the United States planned.

It will be in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa through July 22 after its June 18 arrival in the region. In addition to performing in Worthington and other parks and churches, the group has visited Bethel University and will visit Valley Fair next week. Capital on the Edge will also return for a third tour from September through December that includes east and east central states.

"The whole idea is that we're spreading hope, because these boys come from situations that are hopeless," Jed said. "It's kind of like the American dream with a twist because in Nicaragua, it's not realistic. You can't grow up to be whatever you want to be, but they are using their talents and putting their best foot forward."

For Jose, who grew up near El Mercado Oriental -- the largest market in Central America that is rumored to sell literally everything -- the experience has been transformative, and he said he has enjoyed his time visiting the United States.

"It's very beautiful. Everything is very beautiful, the roads and landscapes," he said.

After living with Jed and Elizabeth, Jose and the other young men traveling with them have begun to dream about the future. That's something they didn't do before.

"Honestly, when they first came to us, they didn't dream, they just lived day to day," Elizabeth said. "So getting them to dream is a huge thing."

"I think I will finish college and find a career,"Jose said. "I'm interested in business, and think I will pursue that."

Yordy, another Capital on the Edge member, has equally high aspirations.

"I want to travel to all the cities of the world and help people that need it -- like us," he said.

Elizabeth said that in spite of the challenges the young men face, she can see them making improvements -- even when it means getting more attitude from the young men.

The more they see us as parent figures, the more they give us the attitude, but in some ways, that's good too, because it means they are comfortable with us, Elizabeth said.

The future is indeed hopeful for the eight young men traveling with Capital on the Edge. They are gaining an education and learning to dream. More importantly, they have gained a family.

Daily Globe Reporter Alyson Buschena may be reached at 376-7322.

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